Chinese Artist Draws with Smoke

by An Xiao on November 22, 2013

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Stare up at the ceiling of any bar or night club that’s been around since before indoor smoking was banned and you’ll doubtless see traces of smoke on the ceiling. Though a symbol of the ephemeral, smoke leaves lasting marks over time, whether that be buildings or lungs or anything else it comes in contact with.

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Post image for Beijing Bike-Sculpture Filters the City’s Pollution

Matt Hope, a Beijing-based artist, is taking his adopted city’s problems head on. Instead of hiding in his apartment and dealing with Beijing’s extreme pollution crisis with the help of air filters and masks, Hope is hitting the streets with a bicycle-cum-sculpture that actively filters the air around it.

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Post image for China Report: Censorship and Self-Censorship in Beijing’s Gallery District

BEIJING — “BEIJING AUTUMN: OFF THE RADAR ART RESISTANCE IN CAOCHANGDI —CCD300″ is the SMS that was sent to advertise an exhibition project called Manmade and Natural Disasters, started by a group of artists living and working in the Caochangdi art village to the northeast of Beijing. A similar notice was posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. There were no other forms of advertising: Everybody knew in advance that the topic of the show and some of the artworks and the names involved would attract the attention of government censors.

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At the Intersection of Art and Factory Work

by An Xiao on August 24, 2012

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LOS ANGELES — The image of the Chinese manufacturing plant is quickly becoming a 21st century icon of production, just as the car plants of Fordism were in the 20th century and Victorian coal mines were during the Industrial Revolution. They’re frequently portrayed as sites of high efficiency, but rarely as spaces for art, humanity and wonder.

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Post image for Ai Weiwei: “Never Retreat, Retweet”

Alison Klayman’s 90-minute film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry set out to be a portrait of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and along the way morphed into a highbrow, jaw-dropping reality show about fumbling, corrupt governments (China), social media (Twitter), democracy and art (Weiwei) and the power of the state (courtesy the Chengdu police), with cameo appearances by Truth, Justice and the American Way (Weiwei as a quasi Superman), brought to you by the insightful commentary of Evan Osnos of the New Yorker (among others).

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Post image for A Performance That Should Be Remembered

Whenever I find myself strolling in the hutongs near Gulou and see the entrance of Bed Bar, images of Liang Tao’s 2005 cross-gender performance come to mind. I met her that same year in the 798 art district, just after her performance “Madhouse in Paradise” at Marella Gallery. For that piece she built a replica of a room from a Western mental institution, in which she spent two days as a “perfectly happy” schizophrenic patient. Her point was that, after having spent a period of time in a Chinese mental institution, a Western one would be quite a nice place to live.

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Post image for Want to Work in Beijing? Check Out These Residencies

LOS ANGELES — Now that I’ve written so extensively about residencies and their benefits, maybe you’re wondering: which residency to join? As mentioned in my series of articles, the Alliance of Artist Communities is a great resource, with well over a thousand sites here and abroad.

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Artist Sleeps Outside Till the Grass Grows

by An Xiao on April 6, 2012

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LOS ANGELES — I first noticed a few pictures of a curious performance piece on Sina Weibo and then Ai Weiwei also posted about it on his Twitter account. Since March 24, He Yunchang, also known as A Chang, has been sleeping outside in the Beijing artist village of Caochangdi (whose name literally means “Grassland/s”) until the grass is fully grown.

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Post image for A New Curatorial Intensive to Launch in Beijing

LOS ANGELES — Independent Curators International is setting up shop in Beijing. Working with the prestigious Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, ICI’s first curatorial intensive in China will be focused on the subject of The Museum of the Future?: Curating Institutions.

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The INTERNETworked Bridge: Connected But Unequal

by An Xiao on October 12, 2011

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BEIJING — I moved to China almost a year ago now, into a country where I knew no one and where even the internet was foreign. I pulled away from my main social circle geographically, but did what I could do stay connected via the internet and phone.

And yet, just as I turned to the internet for social connection, I also realized it was increasingly difficult to rely on my usual circles. Timezones, the Great Firewall and the weak internet connection in my neighborhood all made me realize that the utopian ideal of global connection was far from being achieved.

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